I made a promise to myself to write a post every other day. It seemed doable at first. Baby would sleep for an hour, wake for ninety minutes, sleep for an hour, and so on, throughout the day. I really enjoyed taking some time out during the day to vomit my thoughts about life with Whoopsy. But apparently he was less appreciative of being the subject of my daily rant because he started napping every couple of hours for twenty minutes a time as if to ensure I have just enough time to make him some fresh bottles of formula, but not enough time to open my laptop. So I either have to write even shorter posts or move my writing session to the evening at which point by brain is too frazzled (or drunk) to sling comprehensible sentences together. Which leads me onto my topic today: spending my days with the tiny monster.
The way society rewards you for continuing to repopulate the earth is to give you nine months maternity pay so that you can lounge around at home with your new addition, watching Jeremy Kyle and eating hobnobs. Which is very kind of them except for one or two minor points. Firstly, this supposed rest is entirely ruined by your baby, who has no interest in whether Jeremy can persuade Mickey to stop taking Class A drugs and be a stand up father to little Michaela. Secondly, unless you have an employer with some basic morals (and most don’t) you’re left to live on a pittance that barely stretches to cover the chocolate coating on the fancy hobnobs. Lastly, society judges you for being a stay at home mama. I know this because I used to judge stay at home mamas. We’ve all done it: it’s pouring down with rain, we’re rushing to a 10am meeting when we think we’ll save time on the other end by grabbing a to go coffee. We push the door to Starfucks open, hair stuck to our face, our morning meeting papers completely ruined, when we see them. The mummies. Sitting four to a table, protected by a circle of oversized prams, laughing away at a joke about baby poo. And we hate them. We hate them because we want to be them but we can’t admit that, so instead we furrow our brow and think what are they really contributing to society? Do we really need more babies on this overpopulated planet?
Before we took to drinking endless coffees in endless coffee bars, we all had careers. I had considered mine to make up a large proportion of my identity and had relished in telling people all about my work (in retrospect, they probably wished I hadn’t). I reluctantly gave up my job to have Whoopsy and promptly started job hunting for my return. I assumed that every other mummy was doing the same… smiling gayly for the masses and then clawing at the walls of their self-made prison the moment they returned home. My unofficial informal poll of NCT friends suggests not. ‘Do you miss work?’ I asked, desperate to move the conversation on from baby poo. ‘No’. ‘Not at all’. ‘I’m thinking of having another baby so I don’t have to go back’ were the responses. ‘I’m bored, I crave adult company, I feel like the job market will reject me on my return for having dared take time out, I want money again, I thrive off my feeling like a productive member of society’, I thought, whilst nodding and muttering ‘me too, me too’.
So I decided to use my maternity leave to achieve a few things I hadn’t got around to yet. Some might say keeping a newborn baby alive is very much an achievement in itself. Equally, physically and mentally recovering from the pregnancy and birth is top of the priority list for most people. But not me. Not little Miss ADHD. I won’t rest until that child feels completely neglected, I have my fourth cold bug in a row because I’m totally run down and the house looks like Stig of the Dump’s holiday home
My non-babied friend and I went to Social Eating House on Poland St to make use of their three course lunch deal last week. I’ve noticed that a lot of Michelin starred restaurants have the most amazing lunch deals so I’m making it my mission to visit one a month whilst I’m on on maternity leave. It also gives me a day a month in which to dress up and get out of my slummy mummy uniform of leggings and an oversized jumper. I moan a lot about maternity leave – losing my career, losing my financial independence and losing my interest in long conversations about the marketing strategy of a startup food company. Then T, my partner, reminds me that I spend most of my days in an eclectic selection of eating and drinking establishments – my favourite pastime – and I rapidly stop whinging before he docks my allowance.
I keep reading of these couples who, promptly after having a baby, rent their flat, put their baby in a backpack and go and hike the Himalayas. I am in awe of that kind of bravery. I’m no where near that brave, but it did dawn on me that we have a period of time in which we have no strong ties to London. My partner runs his own company and spends a few weeks a year in Washington DC drumming up business. So we figured – why not use our tielessness to have an extended holiday. He can meet people, network and mingle, baby and I can explore a new city and we can all feel like we’ve had a big family adventure. Our flat is already rented so we have two months in the spring and a blank page as to how we spend it.
I only recently finished studying when I graduated from a two year MSc. I miss it. I’m not sure which part I miss. It isn’t the three hour lectures in a windowless room. It isn’t giving up my Saturday mornings to spend in an empty library. It definitely isn’t the night before an assignment hand in emotional meltdown. But somehow, I do miss it. My father in law told me recently that he’d been spending his recent retirement doing online courses with Oxford University which take up about ten hours of his week for ten weeks. This seemed like a genius way to stay learning whilst also sneaking ‘Oxford University’ onto my CV, so I chose a course that is related to my area of interest and dusted off my pencil case. So now when I’m drinking coffee in Starfucks with my mummy friends and some wet woman rolls her eyes at us, I can shout at her ‘I’M AN OXFORD STUDENT YOU JUDGEMENTAL BITCH’.
Get to know London
Okay so hands up, I haven’t even started this one yet. I decided before he was born that baby and I would go exploring and really get to know this city whilst I was off work. I have some great history books about London that we can use as tour guides to our wanderings. The weather is currently swinging between apocalyptic and sunny-but-deadly-freezing so we’re waiting till it warms up a little before we start our mission to drink coffee in new coffee bars.
Write a blog
I’m not a writer. On odd occasions I would try and write a diary and, within three days, I would have stopped because I couldn’t cope with the embarrassment of reading my own narcissistic thoughts. I started Whoopsy Baby because I thought there might be some young women like me out there (notice the subtle use of ‘young’) who found themselves accidentally knocked up and in need of a happy-ever-after story about someone who got accidentally pregnant and IT WAS NOT A GOOD THING but then, slowly, it become KIND OF A GOOD THING in order to give them hope. That was the intention. I think I can be honest and say it’s become a massive bitchfest about parenthood. Whether this helps anyone else or not, I’m going to keep pouring my little heart out onto this 15″ MacBook screen as way of cataloguing a time which will otherwise go completely forgotten through sleep deprivation.